Cuesta College’s Veterans Resource Center is bringing the secretary for the California Department of Veterans Affairs to the San Luis Obispo campus for a lunchtime talk Wednesday, April 16.

Peter J. Gravett, who was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011 to oversee the CalVet cabinet post, will speak during the event, set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Student Center at the Associated Students Auditorium, Room 5401. The talk is open to the public.

“Secretary Gravett is going to talk about his personal journey through college after serving in the military as well as the different benefits associated with both CalVet and the federal VA,” said Kelsey Kehoe, who coordinates Cuesta's Wellness Arts Program.

A Q&A session will follow the talk so he will “be able to take issues, concerns and questions back to his organization that our student veterans and community members have,” she added.

California has nearly 2 million veterans. The governor’s proposed 2014/15 budget includes more than $400 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which promotes and delivers services to California veterans and their families. Three-quarters of every $1 goes for the care of sick and disabled vets at facilities in Yountville, Barstow, Chula Vista, Los Angeles, Lancaster, Ventura, Redding and Fresno.

San Luis Obispo County is home to more than 21,500 vets or about 8 percent of the population. There are 225 homeless vets living in the county, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Gravett is the son of one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the legendary African-American aviators who served in World War II. The future secretary rose from enlisted soldier to major general, serving more than 40 years in the U.S. Army and the California Army National Guard before retiring in 2006.

He can relate to veterans at community colleges. He began his collegiate studies at Long Beach City College because the school’s police science major had a good reputation. Gravett had a unique perspective as a re-entry student; he had toured the world with the military and was entering college as a full-time police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department.

“I was at Long Beach City College because I wanted to be, not because someone told me I should be,” Gravett said. “I recognized the value of the education I was getting and knew it was laying a solid foundation for my later education and my career in law enforcement.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology from California State University at Long Beach and continued what blossomed  into a 22-year career with L.A.P.D. He rose to the rank of watch commander and earned the department’s highest honor for bravery, the Los Angeles Police Department Medal of Valor. He also obtained a master’s of public administration from the University of Southern California.

He is a former board member of the Cypress Community College Foundation and is a member of Mission Readiness, a group of retired generals and admirals that focuses on childhood obesity. On behalf of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, Gravett has participated in several dedication ceremonies throughout the state for veterans center openings at several community colleges.

For more details, call Kelsey Kehoe at 546-3100, ext. 2213.

Lauren Milbourne / (805) 546-3108 / / Posted: 4/14/14